Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dogs, chimpanzees, and 18th-century novels.

Interesting stuff about canine learning and perception in this article, but one sentence struck me as almost out of a novel of manners:

"Our...cousins are simply too distracted by their aggression and competitiveness to fathom gestures easily."

It got me to thinking about the relationship between increased social status and increased surveillance. One of the characteristics of someone living within a higher social strata is a concomitant sensitivity to gesture, tone, and inflection. Those living within lower social strata are portrayed as coarse, uncomprehending, and oblivious.

Having said all that, I am obligated to note that the ellipsis in the above quote replaces the word ape. I would argue that in the 18th century novel of manners, the parallel is intentional. This quote, however, comes from December 2009. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A question to live by.

I ask myself, “What would the person I want to be do?”

from here. Tip o' the hat to Kate Dreadhawk and her Facebook news feed.

Der Spiegel interview with Umberto Eco.

Excellent interview. An excerpt:

"I have a hallway for literature that's 70 meters long. I walk through it several times a day, and I feel good when I do. Culture isn't knowing when Napoleon died. Culture means knowing how I can find out in two minutes."

Sunday, October 11, 2009


This may be the best definition of character that I've ever read:

Modern life is rubbish | SMLXL - Engagement Marketing and Communication principles from Alan Moore
For Sennett, “character” is defined as the capacity to construct and keep commitments – not just in marriage, but also in friendships, communities, and workplaces – and the ability to provide continuous, coherent narratives of personal experience.

So what we have when character breaks down is (1) a lack of capacity to construct and keep commitments, and (2) an inability to provide a continuous, coherent narrative of ourselves. In other words, we lose our capacity for autobiography.

I find this fascinating. Much more to think about on this.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Overheard at Nats Park

"A baseball pitch is 300 feet by 300 feet , which is like 1000 square feet."

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Another insane asylum to be explored.

Forest Haven, Maryland. Wow. These Flickr photos from Kasia Swierczek are amazing. I've got to check this place out.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Obama in Turkey: One statement of interest.

Got this from @Thandelike:

Obama tells Turkish uni students that friends give each other honest opinions and that's a benefit of friendship between states

While I totally agree with Obama on this, I don't know how it'll be received. When a country or a group places honor above all, the rule of law disintegrates and the rule of subjectivity replaces it (or in the case of a group, the willingness to abide by external rules). Subjectivity intrudes upon perception and prohibits humility. It permits self-deceit.

If it sounds like I'm saying that states and groups abiding by honor also abide by self-deceit, then you get your choice of stuffed animals from the middle shelf. It was necessary for Obama to say that to Turkey; we'll be lucky if they are only made uncomfortable by it.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

New drink to try.


1 oz Pimms No. 1 Cup (a gin-based spirit)

3/4 ounce citrus vodka

1 ounce pomegranate juice

1/2 ounce orange bitters (optional)

Orange twist

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday quickie: One from Twitter.

My powers, like my underpants, are Ancient and Terrible.

via @warrenellis, and if you're not following him, it's worth it to join Twitter just to do so. Check him out at www.warrenellis.com and his work at www.freakangels.com.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

When chihuahuas attack.

Okay, so it's not the Death Star. It is, however, a video of the most tolerant cat alive.I can't tell if that's a chihuahua puppy. I mean, who can? Like how big are they? A teaspoon or something?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One problem with literary criticism.

Literary criticism today works the same way that medical research would if every researcher arrived with an entirely different approach to medicine. Like one guy's homeopathy, another one is faith healing, another one is ancient Vedic, etc. And they're all talking and using the same tool set, but their ways of evaluating what they see are so different that there's effectively no dialogue. No one can assign legitimacy to anything because any pretension to decision making has been given up.

Keep in mind that I once did lit crit. I guess I didn't come out of the right school, because I couldn't see any point to it. That didn't stop me from picking up multiple degrees in it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Quote of the day.

Twitter / Home
“Our doubts are traitors & make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” ~Shakespeare

Friday, January 23, 2009

awesome shot

Got this from someone around me who was on BrightKite. Amazing shot. I wish I knew where it was; for some reason, I can't find it on BK now because of all the inauguration photos (difference between what I get on my cell and what gets posted to the BK page). Things like this get me thinking about a Call of Cthulhu blog.

The fresh hell of retail.

The first boot on my neck was McCrory's.

I worked at a small-chain department store. I lasted there about four months making minimum wage. Christ, what a shithole.

Vegas to Paris via Prague and Berlin, 2009

Accelerating on the autobahn as the soldiers' boots crunch-crunch against the pavement.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Twitter and languages.

How much knowledge of a foreign language is enough to make a fellow Twitterer a good follow? And is a good follow the same thing as a reasonable follow?

In going through emails re: new followers, I came across one person who tweets in Portuguese. (This isn't the first one, either.) I studied several languages as an undergraduate, French was my language in graduate school, and I did some brushing-up of my German not long ago. I follow a few people who tweet in French, Spanish, and German occasionally. Portuguese, however, is not on the radar despite my brief encounter with Spanish in middle school.

Does Twitter make it easier to pick up language and/or meaning from context? IM can be difficult if one is at a stage earlier than the two-year point, I think; message boards, just as with posts in English, contain jargon, slang, typos, and other difficulties. But Twitter might provide the right combination. Since Twitter is just now moving out of the early-adopter stage, it's still got people on it who are smart, clear thinkers and whose tweets reflect that.

Inasmuch as we can standardize language acquisition, I don't think this is one of those individual pace things. I can see how Twitter could become a huge boon to the learning of foreign languages: an instructor could create a group with people tweeting at levels appropriate to students, who could then follow the group members. Real-time interaction improves language acquisition like nothing else, but it requires a certain level of fluency in order for it to work.

So far, my preliminary answer to the question of meaning acquisition--which isn't language acquisition--is yes. If anyone has experience with this, please comment.

Friday, January 02, 2009

IPv6 shift and the locus of personal interests.

Is there anyone left younger than 50, or maybe 40, who isn't online 24/7? Being online has a different sensibility now. It's not that one lives before a computer so much as one is in some way there and participating. For instance, Twitter is an aggregator for me as much as it is a microblogging tool. Each morning I start at page 12 and read forward. That doesn't catch me up by any stretch (it used to when I followed only a couple hundred people), but it gives me a sense of what's being said by the people I follow.

Given this, it doesn't surprise me to read that one of Bob Gourley's predictions is that the IPv6 shift will begin in homes. Being online is practically synonymous with rich content now. The effect of rich content is to make online experiences more personal rather than less. I wouldn't be surprised to hear at some point that as the content gets richer, the time people spend online decreases rather than increases.

Thoughts? Additional context? You know where the 'leave a comment' link is.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Day musing.

How wonderful can one's world be if it only exists on the interior?

In reading Chris Brogan's awesome blog post about his three goal words for 2009, I started thinking in a preliminary way about privacy. As a rule, I do not reveal much of myself on this blog; that's partly because I'm a GenXer and thus more individualistic, and partly because I'm an only child who issues press releases, not information. The fact that keeping my own counsel has been a historically poor choice hasn't stopped me from continuing to do so. My brain is quick to remind me that Milton would not advise this.

The people whose blogs I admire most are those who have good judgment about what to make public and what to make private. I don't have a single-word concept for this yet; it's not just "openness." Besides, that's so 2008. Perhaps it's time to consult Roger. (Now that would be a fun set of words--three, picked at random from a thesaurus.) Anyway, more on this as it goes.

If you've got three words of your own, or just thoughts about this as a potential process, I'd like to hear about it.